All your questions on child labour, answered by experts.

The worst forms of child labour involve children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age.

Hazardous child labour is work which is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children.


  • Exposes children to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • Happens underground, under water, at dangerous heights, or in confined spaces
  • Includes dangerous machinery, equipment, and tools
  • Exists in an unhealthy environment which may, for example, expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health
  • Occurs under difficult conditions, such as work for long hours, during the night, or work where the child is unreasonably confined to the premises of the employer

Globally, 218 million children between 5 and 17 years old are in employment. 152 million of them are in child labour. Almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.

This means that one out of 10 children in the world are in child labour, with one out of 20 in hazardous child labour.

Almost half of child labour happens in Africa (72 million children), followed by Asia and the Pacific (62 million).

One out of five children (19.6%) in Africa are in child labour. Prevalence in other regions ranges from 3% to 7% (2.9% in the Arab States, 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia, 5.3% in the Americas and 7.4% in Asia and the Pacific).

Child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding, and aquaculture. Then, 17% work in services and 12% in industries, including mining.

Since 2000, total child labour has been reduced by 38%, from 246 to 152 million. Hazardous child labour has decreased by 58%, from 171 to 73 million.

But, the pace of reduction has significantly slowed down since 2012, from 168 to 152 million in child labour, and from 85 to 73 million in hazardous child labour. This compares with a reduction of 47 million from 2008 to 2012, 30 million of whom were in hazardous work.

The ILO’s NORMLEX database provides information about what conventions a country has ratified. Find your country’s profile, read comments from the ILO supervisory bodies, and visit links to view national legislation.

You can also find information on the extent, characteristics, and determinants of child labour at the global, country, and sectoral levels from the ILO’s Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour.

National employers and workers organizations are another useful source of information on child labour issues.

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